The Michigan BIRCWH's goal was to develop a cadre of new junior faculty scholars through a mentored scholarly research experience to result in independent scientific careers addressing interdisciplinary women's health concerns. This goal was aligned with the University of Michigan's broad interest and significant expertise in women's health, as evidenced in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.
We trained a minimum of three clinician scientists and two non-clinical postdoctoral scientists per year for a minimum of two years each. Recruitment and selection focused on identifying scholars with superior academic potential and scientific skills, with special attention to achieving a diversity of scholars and scholarship. Each scholar had an assigned mentor: an established, independent investigator with a proven track record who was selected for his/her commitment and track record of support for junior colleagues in their transition to independence. We targeted scholars for areas of special interest in:
- Pelvic Floor/Urogynecology Research
- Health Services Research
- Reproductive Science and Women's Medicine
- Biobehavioral and Aging Research
The scholars had 75 percent protected time for research and career development. An individual career development plan was developed by each scholar and his or her mentor. It included, at a minimum, an intensive supervised research experience, instruction and assistance in grant writing and submission, experience in scientific writing, ongoing mentor contact, formal annual evaluation, and instruction in the responsible conduct of research. All scholars participated in the monthly First Tuesday Women's Health interdisciplinary research seminar series at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. Access to faculty career development programs, advanced courses in biomedical research, biostatistics, epidemiology, and research methodology assistance was available as appropriate.
A Program Advisory Committee oversaw the program with emphasis on recruitment, selection, ongoing assessment of progress, and post-completion tracking of scholars. Support provided by the grant helped ensure continued success in our efforts to promote the successful transition of women's health researchers to scientific independence. Of scholars supported by the Michigan BIRCWH, all have progressed significantly and are currently in appropriate research-focused positions.